It is quiet, still and dark now. That’s a stark contrast to the last 10 hours, but exactly what I need. I’m recovering from the best baseball game I’ve seen live in 18 years, a cacophony of noise, hope, rage, enthusiasm and community and – and I’m spent. The kids are in bed, so is The Voice of Reason™, and I should be – god knows I should be – but I'm not ready to fully embrace the quiet, still and dark.
So let’s shift from “recover” to “reminisce”, in the hopes of eventually reaching “relish”. There were 12 innings, and that’s just such a beautiful round number, full of biblical implications, so let’s go through the twelve innings and pull a memory out of each.
I’m going to remember Joe Mauer taking that extra base. My kids were at the game, and since they don’t watch that much baseball, they didn’t understand how extraordinary that is. A team leader, not especially fast, and a catcher to boot, going like a bat out of hell to squeeze an extra base. Justin Morneau did the same thing the first series of the season, and it impressed the hell out of me then, and Mauer impressed the hell out of me tonight.
But I didn’t explain it to my kids. They aren’t there yet, they wouldn’t get it. I’d just be their dad rambling on about something unimportant, the same way all our parents do. And logically they would be right, because Mauer is stranded there as the inning ends.
But it was important. I believe that.
Tigers have a runner on third base with one out and fail to drive him in. I was just on Seth’s podcast tonight and I wondered out loud how many times that happened to Detroit tonight. So I’m going to look through the game quick and let you know…
Four times. That’s less than I thought. But note that this isn’t how many times that runners were in scoring position and a batter didn’t get a hit. This is how many times a productive out would’ve scored a run, but didn’t. It happened this inning, and twice in the ninth and once in the 12th.
I haven’t reflected much on just how heart-breaking this loss must be to Tigers fans. Besides the lack of execution with runners on third, you have the misplays in the field and the three game lead collapse. (Shudder) That's enough reflection for now.
I hate to say it – but I'll remember the “al-cho-hol-ic” chant the crowd directed at Miguel Cabrera the most. I know, I know – you stay classy, Minneapolis. But I don’t feel the need to apologize for it.
I remember Scott Baker continuing to struggle, giving up a single and then starting the next batter with an outside pitch before shortstop Orlando Cabrera called time-out to talk to him, with Mauer joining them. One pitch later Rick Anderson also came out to talk to him.
From then forward, Baker was very good, and having him go into the seventh inning helped a bullpen which should be a legitimate concern versus the Yankees.
Nothing much happened this inning, so let’s go with a pregame memory. We park an hour and twenty minutes before game time thinking we’ll stop at Maxwell’s and maybe get some waffle fries. We know we’re in trouble when we see a line of people waiting to get into Grumpy’s. Maxwell’s has no line, but is so full of people that it felt dangerous in there. We skedaddled and just went to the dome.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is a football town. But we’re getting there. The pregame insanity and the reaction of tonight’s crowd is a testament to it.
Jason Kubel, after two very bad at-bats, homers and I’ve been told that’s when it looked like the crowd got into the game. Maybe. But I gotta say, I was more impressed with the crowd tonight than I’ve been in years, even before Kubel’s shot.
50,000 people in the dome can make a lot of noise, but they can also make a lot of silence. I didn’t notice the silence even when the Twins were down 3-0. It was exactly as if the crowd knew that they were going to need to pack a lunch, that this was a game that was going to be decided late.
Let me add one caveat – my enthusiasm for the crowd might be a result of sitting in the second level. There were plenty of times I would look around and see the more expensive seats sitting while upper deck sections were rising and screaming for a 3rd strike. I think this was a case where the farther you were from the action, the more fun it was.
And there were times I’m sure the crowd affected the players. I’m quite sure it helped the Twins score in the bottom of the tenth. It might very well have kept overmatched umpire Randy Marsh from hearing Brandon Inge’s uniform get scraped by a pitch. And I’m convinced we carried Bobby Keppel in the twelfth. All he had to do was throw the first strike and the crowd would take it from there.
I remember the pandemonium during and after Orlando Cabrera’s line drive home run. My kids were elated. Everyone is giving high fives or just hugging. And I dared to think my kids might just experience the rarest of events in Minnesota sports – a big win that really means something.
Or not. The Magglio Ordonez shot was quick enough that we were all sort of numbed by it, but the Rick Raburn/Matt Guerrier/Marsh battle was what got us all worked up. The umpiring seemed so bad tonight that I assumed I was just in a terrible position to evaluate it. After talking to several fans and reading some stories, it seems like a shame that an umpire’s very bad day could affect such a critical game.
Span CANNOT bunt in that situation. I assume he did so on his own, but then someone needs to pull him aside before the at-bat – or even during the at-bat – and let him know he can’t bunt in that position. If Kubel is batting fourth, he can. But since Kubel had been lifted an inning earlier, he can’t. And somebody needs to help him out with this.
The Tigers will likely get criticized for some miscues in this game, but it’s worth pointing out that Brandon Inge made a diving stop of a rocket by Cabrera to keep the Twins from scoring in this inning. It was a breathtaking defensive play.
I’m going to remember my 10-year-old son spinning towards me with his lower lip out and tears in his eyes. Between the HBP of Audrey Huff and calling the pitch immediately before Inge’s double a ball, The Boy™ is convinced that there is an injustice being done. Nothing make that kid madder than that, except maybe losing, and now we had both.
It’s also worth noting that in Matt Tolbert’s RBI single in the bottom of the frame, the Tigers came within inches of that being a double play instead. I did not think that grounder was getting through. I’m not sure I know how it did.
As the Twins used three pitchers in this frame, I remember The Voice of Reason™ turning to me and asking if Ron Gardenhire was going to run out of pitchers soon. I said I didn’t think so, because the Twins still had Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Manship (not to mention Armando Gabino) available. That’s the advantage of September.
And meanwhile, Fernando Rodney breezes through the bottom of the tenth on something like 35 pitches – and there is nobody warming up in the Tigers bullpen? Really?
Two things – I’ll remember the crowd trying desperately to will Keppel through a scoreless inning. I’ll remember Gardenhire charging out of the dugout by NOT making a pitching change, and me thinking he’s insane.
But mostly I’ll remember Carlos Gomez sliding across home plate. Two innings earlier I had watched him fly into a rage as he left the field and entered the dugout, furious at himself for not getting the clutch hit the team needed in the ninth. Now he’s sliding like a rapturous superman. Gawd it's fun to watch him love this game.
Good - that seems like a good memory to hold onto as I go to bed. It’s time for quiet, still and dark to have their turn.